"I am not in any respect my own" (counsel from Jonathan Edwards)
Growing up, as I did, a Southern Baptist, I often heard appeals that we should “re-dedicate” our lives to Jesus. This typically involved walking an aisle during an altar call, filling out the appropriate box on a decision card, and then standing in front of the congregation in order to make the declaration public. I’m not here to pass judgment on this practice as I experienced it, but rather to point you to what I think is a beautiful example of what it means to renew one’s baptismal covenant with God.
Jonathan Edwards recorded for us the renewal of his baptismal covenant in an entry to his personal Diary, dated Saturday, January 12, 1723. Would that we all might recommit ourselves to the Lord in this way.
“I have this day solemnly renewed my baptismal covenant and self-dedication, which I renewed when I was received into communion of the church. I have been before God; and have given myself, all that I am and have to God, so that I am not in any respect my own: I can challenge no right in myself, I can challenge no right in this understanding, this will, these affections that are in me; neither have I any right to this body, or any of its members: no right to this tongue, these hands, nor feet; no right to these senses, these eyes, these ears, this smell or taste. I have given myself clear away, and have not retained anything as my own.
I have been to God this morning, and told him that I gave myself wholly to him. I have given every power to him; so that for the future I will challenge no right in myself, in any respect. I have expressly promised him, and do now promise almighty God, that by his grace I will not. I have this morning told him, that I did take him for my whole portion and felicity, looking on nothing else as any part of my happiness, nor acting as if it were; and [I did take] his law for the constant rule of my obedience; and would fight with all my might against the world, the flesh, and the devil, to the end of my life. And [I] did believe in Jesus Christ, and receive him as a prince and a Savior; and would adhere to the faith and obedience of the gospel, however hazardous and difficult the profession and practice of it may be.
[I have this morning told Him] that I did receive the blessed Spirit as my teacher, sanctifier and only comforter; and cherish all his motions to enlighten, purify, confirm, comfort and assist me. This I have done. And I pray God, for the sake of Christ, to look upon it as a self-dedication; and to receive me now as entirely his own, and deal with me in all respects as such; whether he afflicts me or prospers me, or whatever he pleases to do with me, who am his. Now, henceforth I am not to act in any respect as my own. I shall act as my own, if I ever make use of any of my powers to [do] anything that is not to the glory of God, and don't make the glorifying [of] him my whole and entire business; if I murmur in the least at afflictions; if I grieve at the prosperity of others; if I am [in] anyway uncharitable; if I am angry because of injuries; if I [seek] revenge; if I do anything, purely to please myself, or if I avoid anything for the sake of my ease; if I omit anything because it is great self-denial; if I trust . . . myself: if I take any of the praise of any good that I do, or rather God does by me; or if I am [in] any way proud.”
May God in His grace strengthen, support, and sustain me in this renewal of the commitment I made to Him when I was baptized. Amen.”